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Showdown Over State Versus Local Control Rages On In Texas

Ryan E. Poppe

What do annexation, short-term rentals, revenue caps and texting-while-driving have in common? They are all exemplifying issues of the ongoing tug-of-war between the state of Texas and the interests of its counties and local governments.

From the large-scale movements behind anti-sanctuary cities legislation and the so-called "bathroom bill" to seemingly innocuous policies like tree ordinances and plastic bag bans, the battle over state vs. local control was a common theme in the latest legislative session.

Lawmakers have been working to create statewide rules on various issues, which may or may not undercut existing ordinances made by local governments.

State trumps local law in regulation disputes, save for intervention by a federal court. Municipal leaders argue that they are best suited to make decisions about city-specific issues and need the flexibility to do so. 

Newly-passed regulations on fees and background checks for ride-hailing services like Lyft and Uber for example, are compliant with San Antonio's agreement with the companies to conduct business. In Austin, Texas' new statewide ride-hailing law promptly brought the popular services – which previously left in opposition to the city's strict fingerprinting requirements for drivers – back to the state's capital

Are there issues municipalities should be able to decide for themselves? Does the state have an obligation to "protect constituents from cities," as legislators have argued?

What other policies are or could be caught up in this power struggle? How will the saga play out when legislators reconvene for a special session in July? 


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Jan Ross Piedad Sakian is TPR’s News Operations Producer. In this role, she develops strategy on collaborative and digital initiatives for the station. Since 2016, Jan Ross has served in a coordinating capacity for TPR’s state and national partners, including The Texas Newsroom.